Hi there and welcome to my first article for Master of Magics. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m mainly a competitive player based in Leeds and you may have even seen me at a PPTQ as I go to plenty of those. I also really enjoy playing in Prereleases and doing cube drafts. You can find out a little more about me in my short bio on the Crew page.
Last weekend was Aether Revolt Prerelease and I can say without a doubt this is a set I’ve been quite excited about. I had a great time, I actually attended three Prereleases! I’d like to share my thoughts on deckbuilding so I’ve zoned in on my favourite pool. I’m mindful I probably didn’t build it perfectly but I hope this article will give you some tips for evaluating cards and building decks from sealed pools – and maybe you can help me with where I went wrong in the comments section.
My sealed pool
This one is from the Midnight Prerelease at Patriot Games Leeds. I actually decided the only way I could feasibly attend this one was by taking a nap in between finishing work and attending the event. I stuck to the plan so that I would have some life in me by the time deckbuilding started! I opened my pool slightly overshadowed by a friend opposite me opening some green Timmy cards and a Masterpiece Engineered Explosives. Here’s my pool:
Building effective decks is tricky and the decisions that go into doing so have many branches. Instead of traversing that forestry, I’m going to show you the deck I built and go over some of the broader points that led me there, breaking them down in context with this sealed pool.
These cards tend to be the most powerful in your pool and consequently influence the decision to commit to playing specific colours. My rares were:
- White: Fumigate, Solemn Recruit
- Black: Midnight Entourage
- Red: Quicksmith Rebel
- Artifact: Electrostatic Pummeler, 2 Metallic Mimic.
The two white rares are very strong cards. The black rare is ok, but gets better the more Aetherborn you play and we actually have a few of those so it may be worth considering. Quicksmith Rebel is a good card but not as swaying as the white cards. The three artifact rares could be played in any deck. Pummeler would require us to have a decent amount of ‘creature pump’ and energy cards in order for us to maximise its potential. The mimics get better when you have multiple creatures of the same type, but I think their tribal synergy isn’t as important as cards we’ve seen in the past such as Lord of Atlantis. This is because creatures are given their size increase in +1/+1 counters allowing it to be useful with cards that synergise with counters, and also meaning the creature stays larger even if the Mimic dies. Likely if I can get one creature bigger, it’s done enough work already. So I’m not too concerned about the creature type synergy being a problem. Pretty sure I’m playing them regardless!
Culling the Weak
This is the part where everyone has their own nuanced approach, but essentially the goal is to cut the weaker/niche cards from your pool, or lay out only the ‘good/playable’ cards in front of you. This way you can decide the merits of different colour combinations based on the quality of cards. Personally, I’m fairly brutal when doing this exercise by first cutting all cards that don’t give me a stronger than average reason for playing the colour, then adding cards back in again as I consider some of the sub elements (see below). My initial cull of the weak left the following survivors (artifacts not included as they can almost always squeeze into any deck if we temporarily disregard activated abilities that require specific colours):
- White: Caught In The Brights, Felidar Guardian, Fragmentize, Fumigate, Propeller Pioneer, Solemn Recruit, Wispweaver Angel
- Blue: Malfunction, Select For Inspection, Skyship Plunderer
- Black: 2 Aether Poisoner, Cruel Finality, Midnight Entourage
- Red: Aether Chaser, Chandra’s Revolution, Quicksmith Rebel, Scrapper Champion
- Green: Hunt The Weak, Prey Upon, Thriving Rhino
- Gold: Hidden Stockpile, Spire Patrol
At this point, white was the strongest candidate for a colour to play. Having the most ‘good cards’ backed up by the fact that two of them are strong rares supports this.
The most important thing for your deck (at least most of the time) is the number of creatures. Unless you’ve opened some serious non-creature power (or lots of cards that put tokens into play) creature spells will be the main factor for winning games and ensuring you don’t die to those of your opponents. I like to play 13 creatures as a minimum. I’m often more comfortable if I can play more.
It’s reassuring to know that white alone offers us 12 creatures, and most artifact creatures can fill any gaps or replace the poor white creatures. This is good as its becoming more and more likely that white will be our main colour. However it also means that white can likely be paired with any of the colours, so deciding the best one might be tricky. Some further things to think about with respect to creatures.
Which creatures have ‘evasion’? By evasion I mean Flying, Menace or some other ability that makes it harder for my opponent’s creatures to block it when it attacks them. The basic philosophy of ‘I attack, you don’t block’ is particularly strong in Kaladesh sealed from my experience, which means 2/2 flyers for 3 mana usually get the nod as it’s quite easy in this format to create situations where attacking on the ground is poor due to defensive servo tokens. Black would offer us one additional evasive creature in Maulfist Squad, but blue opens up a better ‘airforce’ of Skyship Plunderer, Hinterland Drake, Spire Patrol and even Dukhara Peafowl.
To be as efficient as possible with your mana each turn, it’s ideal if you have a card you can play each turn of the game, and as we’ve established creatures being the focus of limited play, you want to consider strongly your ability to play a creature in each of your turns, crucially through turns 2 to 4 (or 5). When I want to check out how different configurations work, I often lay out the creatures I want to play separately from the other cards to help ensure that there are no areas of overload or gaps, and that I have enough 2-drops and 3 drops so that I’m presenting board presence in the early turns of the game. Here’s a quick summary of what each colour offers to fill the curve:
- 2 drops: Skyship Plunderer
- 3 drops: Hinterland Drake
- 4 drops: Spire Patrol, Shipwreck Moray, Dukhara Peafowl
- 6 drops: Bastion Inventor (These can come down earlier than turn 6 with improvise)
- 2 drops: 2 Aether Poisoner, Fretwork Colony
- 3 drops: Defiant Salvager
- 4 drops: Maulfist Squad, Midnight Entourage, Prakhata Club Security
- 5 drops: Ambitious Aetherborn
- 2 drops: Aether Chaser, Reckless Fireweaver
- 3 drops: Reckless Racer
- 4 drops: Quicksmith Rebel, Scrapper Champion
- 5 drops: 2 Lathnu Sailback
Now to compare with our existing pool of creatures in White/Colourless to see if these creatures are worth including. We are low on three drops so we will probably consider almost any three drop at this point. The cards I consider worth including are in BOLD. Just a couple of quick notes:
- Bastion Inventor: Makes the curve too high, Would rather attack/block with artifact creatures than improvise
- Fretwork Colony: I dislike this card in sealed unless we have +1/+1 counter synergy, we don’t really have that much
At this point blue and black are looking like they will offer good contributions to the curve. Blue’s evasive creatures are tempting, allowing me to maybe replace one of the Audacious Infiltrator or Eager Construct. I could also try an Aetherborn deck in black with the Entourage. I would have then been compelled to play the Ambitious Aetherborn which would have made my curve quite high, and likely I would have had to cut one of the four drops to make room for all the Aetherborn.
As creatures are important, your opponents will be playing a lot of them. You will need ways to deal with some of the troublesome ones, or ones that you’re unable to fend off with your own creatures. Playing a colour combination with no removal is considered quite risky.
Here’s a quick breakdown of all the removal spells available to us outside of white and colourless:
- Blue: Malfunction, Select for Inspection
- Black: Cruel Finality
- Red: Chandra’s Revolution, Quicksmith Rebel
- Green: Appetite for the Unnatural, Prey Upon
I’m being fairly generous with Select for Inspection – it’s not quite removal in the hard sense as it doesn’t technically kill non-token creatures, but it can lead to huge blowouts in combat and it also Scries, which is sometimes close to drawing a card. In addition it’s just one mana. I also consider Appetite for the Unnatural and Fragmentize when thinking about removal in this sealed format as they can often fill this role given the number of artifacts running around.
Overall the non-white colours are quite removal light. White gives us Fumigate and Caught in the Brights, which tells us that diving into a specific colour for a removal suite is not really a thing, and we likely shouldn’t base our choice for white’s support on the removal available.
I think at this point it’s common knowledge that Renegade Freighter is extremely good, and I wanted to see if the Daredevil Dragster was good or not (it was fine). In addition, I am always on the look-out for meaningful mana sinks as they are so good in the late game. Whirlermaker really hits the spot for me, and if I name ‘Thopter’ with both Metallic Mimics I have a factory of 3/3 Thopters which is insane! Lastly, I chose to play Illusionist’s Stratagem over Malfunction. The reason for this was to ‘turn on Revolt’. I thought a lot of people might be bouncing their own creatures or blinking them, which makes Malfunction significantly worse. I also love enters the battlefield abilities and this allowed me to go crazy with Wispweaver Angel and Felidar Guardian AND draw a card. Couldn’t resist, really!
I’m slowly learning how to sideboard in limited (I never used to do this, and now I’m not sure why). If I wanted the deck to become more aggressive I had the option of boarding in the second Audacious Infiltrator. As 3/1s go it actually performed well so maybe I should have started with both. I boarded in Aegis Automaton and Consulate Skygate quite a bit as most of my opponents’ decks ended up being faster than mine. This meant Whirlermaker and Ghirapur Osprey often got subbed off. Need to stop those Longtusk Cubs somehow! I also swapped Aeronaut Admiral for Dukhara Peafowl at the 4-drop slot when I needed to defend against multiple Thopters or Servos. Malfunction came in for Illusionist’s Stratagem if there was a troublesome permanent that didn’t need to attack or block (like Pacification Array) or indeed anything that would stop my airforce.
I’m going to keep this short. I went 4-1 in matches losing only to a well-constructed black/red aggro deck piloted by my friend Craig Stevenson (he was able to go 5-0 and win). He had Yahenni, Undying Partisan and Yahenni’s Expertise so he also gets a flavour win.
- Flying/evasion is amazing! I was definitely able to outmanoeuvre decks with higher quality cards simply because they couldn’t stop my airforce.
- The format feels fast! This might be a 16-17 land format rather than 17-18. Very few non-rare creatures at 5cmc+ (that can’t be improvised) and you certainly don’t have time to ‘do nothing’ in the early turns.
- It’s revolting! I’m quite fond of the Revolt mechanic. Other than implying that you should ‘blink’ your Revolt creatures as much as possible for great value, it creates interesting attacks and blocks and improves the value of some cards that appear otherwise really weak.
Next week I may well play in a release event if I get the chance, but I’ll almost certainly be heading to my first Standard PPTQ of the season to try and qualify for this season’s RPTQ. The recent bannings have meant I definitely need to brew up something new between now and then, but I think I’ll have a lot of fun exploring what new decks I can make for Standard.